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Escondido Brewing is San Diego’s smallest brewery

Jul 12

Evan Smith enjoys creating things and pushing the envelope in the process. That’s the approach he took with his family business, Escondido Feed and Pet Supply, which has been in operation for decades but gained a reputation as one of the nation’s best stores of its kind only after Evan took the reins. When looking to take on a new entrepreneurial enterprise, he set his sights on craft brewing. A friend of Jordan Hoffart, he had discussions about investing in the pro-skateboarder’s Black Plague Brewing, which recently opened in Oceanside with a 20-barrel system, and grand-scale sales and distribution ambitions. In the end, the big-time wasn’t for Evan. So he went the exact opposite route, building San Diego County’s smallest fermentation interest, Escondido Brewing Company (649 Rock Springs Road, Escondido), which opened last weekend.

In doing so, Evan enlisted the services of an Escondidian homebrewer with scads of beer-competition wins under his medal-clad belt, Ketchen Smith. Together, they went to work building their brewery “like a tiny home.” With only 300 square feet at their disposal, even the most common construction tasks had to be analyzed and strategically managed. They had to cut a vertical foot off the cold-box and reverse the door. They had to install a sink small enough that it would allow them to open doors to that cold-box and the dishwasher on either side of it. And they had to install a bar-top that can be removed to allow a roll-up garage door to fully close. But they relished these challenges and maximized their space in the process. That removable bar-top can also be shifted to a lower rung to allow for service to patrons in wheelchairs, and visible fermenters stored in a converted liquor-store refrigeration unit are lit in a way they lend ambience to the place.

Escondido Brewing founders Ketchen (left) and Evan Smith

Having seen many a brewery in my day, Escondido Brewing is a testament to thoughtfulness, elbow grease and sheer will to make something happen. The Smiths smithed most of this big little project on their own, and what they didn’t do themselves, they got help from courtesy of friends and relatives. The business is a sterling example of what a hometown brewery should be, right down to founders whose aspirations are entirely confined to the city they love and live in. With shaded bar-seating and a trio of picnic tables making up the entirety of Escondido Brewing’s seating options, the business is a far cry from the sprawling gardens and critically acclaimed two-story restaurant at nearby Stone Brewing, the county’s largest independent craft-beer producer. And that’s the point. It’s a nice departure, especially for locals looking to avoid out-of-town beer geeks and tourists; a polar-opposite option that larger, regional breweries needn’t worry about competing with.

Amore for Escondido is further communicated through the names of the brewery’s beers—Hidden City Pale, Rock Springs Red, Hopcondido IPA—and most are based off homebrew recipes Ketchen has won multiple awards for. The most pertinent of those is the first release in a rotating Hop Animal series of ever-changing India pale ales called Marshall Nose IPA, the recipe for which took second overall at last month’s Homebrew Con, the country’s foremost amateur-brewing competition. Pale gold in color and hopped with massive amounts of Citra and Mosaic, it features big aromas of lemon balm, hay and loam accented by flavors of melon, mango, lemon and orange. Smith says it’s inspired by West Coast breweries that have pushed for so long to develop hop-forward beers devoid of caramel color and heavy malt presence. Smith’s other IPA, Hopcondido, comes across like lemon meringue pie on the nose and fresh-cut grass on the tongue, while his pale (which was previously brewed at Coachella Valley Brewing Company following a win at the Hops and Crops homebrew competition) goes from delicate in the front to assertive, late-90’s bitterness on the back end. A milk stout referencing Escondido’s year of incorporation (1888) is all chocolate and cola, while a whiskey barrel-aged version brings vanilla and caramel into the equation without lending over-the-top booziness. All in all, it’s a fun and enjoyable opening line-up, especially given the intimate environs in which these ales were birthed.

Being so small and brewing beer one-and-a-half barrels at a time makes for the real and constant possibility that the Smiths will run out of beer. To combat that, they have trimmed their hours of operation to Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 to 8 p.m. However, they do plan to play off a description lauded on them by several of their customers deeming them the brewery equivalent of a food-truck, by having spontaneous pop-up openings when beer inventory allows for it. Another fun twist that couldn’t exist at a brewery registering as any more than “tiny”.

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Sampler Flight: July Events

Jun 30

Summer’s in full swing and so is San Diego’s beer-drinking public. Rather than beat the heat, get right out in it and combat it with local ales and lagers at any of the featured events below. Still thirsty? No problem. Check out even more beery happenings on our events page.

July 11 | Beer Dinner No. 2: North Park Beer’s first beer dinner was impressive, enough that one attendee, O’Brien’s Pub’s Tyson Blake, signed up him and his boss, Nickel Beer Co. brewmaster Tom Nickel, to participate in this month’s feast, which will feature house, guest and collab beers plus fare from on-site Mastiff Sausage that goes beyond its everyday meaty fare. | North Park Beer Company, 3038 University Avenue, North Park, 7 p.m.

July 19 | Hop-Con 5.0: Stone Brewing will celebrate a half-decade of boozy, (partially) barrel-aged beer that salutes and speaks to nerds of all walks of life when it taps five consecutive vintages of Drew Curtis / Wil Wheaton / Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout and an immense list of specialty brews, serves up gourmet food and plugs in its vintage #HopCade. | Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, Point Loma, 7 p.m.

July 21-23 | Craft Beer Block Party: The tenants of the North Park Brewery Igniter campus—Eppig BrewingPariah Brewing and San Diego Brewingare teaming up for the first time to present a fun weekend that will feature a Friday-night progressing beer-pairing dinner featuring three courses from Biersal Food Truck, and a two-day “local maker’s market”. | CRAFT by Brewery Igniter, 3052 El Cajon Boulevard; North Park, Times Vary by Day

July 29 | Arts & Amps: Ales and art in multiple forms will be celebrated at Karl Strauss Brewing’s PB tasting room and beer garden. There’ll be live mural art by Cohort Collective, a gallery show from Creative Souls on the West, live music by The Schizophonics and Creature Canyon, and food from Tasting Room Del Mar. An event like this could be pricey, but admission is free! | Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 5985 Santa Fe Street, Pacific Beach, 4:30 p.m.

July 29 | HESSFEST 7: Mike Hess Brewing has been getting by with a little help from their friends for a whopping seven years. Breweries from here to Arizona come out to bolster this festival, which benefits Next Step Service Dogs and the YMCA, and will feature nine collaboration beers with the likes of Council Brewing, Eppig Brewing, and Second Chance Beer Company. | Mike Hess Brewing, 3812 Grim Avenue, North Park, 12 p.m.

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Beer of the Week: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Trending Travis-ty

Jun 2

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Trending Travis-ty Northeast-style Session IPA

From the Beer Writer: During my time working for Stone Brewing, I made many great friends. The company is packed with brilliant, fun and kind people, and one of the nicest of them all is the man in charge of brewing operations at Stone’s Liberty Station brewpub, Kris Ketcham. A champion of creativity who has indulged the desires of many novices in his brewhouse, he not only dares to try things others would avoid, but possesses the skill to pull off nearly every challenge thrown his way. In 2015, when I kicked off a charity campaign to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California through the sale of specialty beers from local breweries, I had the chance to brew with Ketcham, and it was a joyfully educational experience. This year, he let me back in the brewhouse to help conjure another charity beer: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Trending Travis-ty. Aside from being long as all get out, there’s significance to the name of this hazy, “Northeast-style” session IPA. At the brewery I currently work for, Societe Brewing, clarity is king. Our brewing team strives to avoid haze in our IPAs and our brewmaster, Travis Smith, finds what he calls the “muddy IPA” haze-craze to be ridiculous if not a sacrilege. So we took this raging trend and made our own little “Travis-ty”. To be fair, Ketcham and I prefer clear IPAs, too, but we thought it would be a fun challenge to create a not-overly-hazy IPA with big hop appeal and extremely low alcohol; a crushable beer that would benefit from increased body from a variety of adjuncts and provide that “juiciness” beer fans are looking for these days. It’s on tap now and a portion of proceeds help lupus patients in San Diego and Imperial Counties care of the Beer to the Rescue campaign.

From the Brewer: “There have been a lot of trends in brewing over the years. The most recent one I can remember is session IPAs, and now we have ‘the L replacement’ hazy, juicy IPAs. As someone who’s taken pride in learning and employing multiple techniques for achieving beer clarity, I find it such a travesty that we’ve shifted into this. However, as much as I love to knock them, there is a uniqueness to them that even I find enjoyable from time to time. I also need to remind myself to keep an open mind, as we’ve come a long way in the past twenty-plus years. All of us as ‘craft’ brewers have changed the perception of beer over the years and still continue to do with styles like these. Sometimes we enjoy them so much that we try our own interpretations with our own signature twists. Trending Travis-ty mixes the past and current trends brewers have been chasing. Take all the adjuncts that give you the trending haze and put them to use in a style that’s lacking in body—session IPA—and you get a win-win result. For this beer, we used a blend of two-row, oats, wheat and dextrin malt to increase body and haze levels. No hops where harmed in the boiling of the wort. Instead, all of the hops used in this beer were added at the start of fermentation and post-fermentation to really bring on the haze. The combo of Mosaic, Loral and Vic Secret hops was a fun combination that uses Brandon and I’s favorite new hops with a hop that is in damn near every single IPA on the market today. Clocking in at 4.3% alcohol-by-volume and 40 on the IBU (international bittering unit) scale—all from the dry hop—this beer fulfills those whose hipster mantras include ‘I only drink hazy IPAs’ and ‘I only drink session beers.’”—Kris Ketcham, Liberty Station Brewing Manager, Stone Brewing

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Beer to the Rescue back bigger than ever to help lupus patients

May 3

When I was diagnosed with the chronic auto-immune disease, lupus, in 2014, I felt very ill and entirely defenseless. I’d been suffering from the condition without a diagnosis for nearly a decade and was dismayed that there is no cure or medications specifically engineered to combat lupus. Nearly three years later, I am still rather ill, but I feel emboldened and lifted by the support of so many in the brewing community (60-plus and counting)  who have come together to help, not just me, but lupus patients throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties, by participating in the Beer to the Rescue charity campaign established to raise funds for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California.

Over the past two years, this campaign has raised more than $70,000 to fund the complimentary support services the LFSC provides locals in need as well as their work to support research and educational initiatives. Because dozens of San Diego County breweries brewed charity beers, made donations and held fundraising events, the LFSC is able to do more and people like me have reasons to be more helpful. We also have cause for increased happiness. Before Beer to the Rescue, most of the lupus sufferers the organization helps only saw each other when commiserating at support group gatherings. A fringe benefit of this cause is that its events are fun ways for lupus patients to comingle in an enjoyable, uplifting atmosphere where they feel cared for and supported. For that, we thank the participating breweries as well as the many, many beer fans who have come out to support the cause. It’s all of this that led me to push to make this year’s Beer to the Rescue campaign the biggest and best yet for all of us.

The 2017 Beer to the Rescue calendar kicked off on May 1 and includes over 40 events packed into the month of May—Lupus Awareness Month. At least one event will take place at a local brewery or watering hole each day this month, and hit numerous communities from Downtown to Fallbrook to Oceanside to PB to La Mesa and more, providing opportunities for beer enthusiasts and humanitarians all over the county to take part and enjoy some good beer and good times, in many cases right alongside the LFSC’s volunteers and beneficiaries. The full schedule is provided below. Thank you to everyone out there who has helped move the needle and make a positive difference for our region’s lupus patients. It means more than you can know and we look forward to seeing you around San Diego in May! To keep up with Beer to the Rescue, you can check out the campaign’s official website or follow on social media via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (@beertotherescue).

All-Month 5/1-31
Spring Fling Lemon Verbena Saison @ Bitter Brothers Brewing Co.
Daily Grind Coffee Cream Ale @ All Oggi’s Locations
Monday 5/1
Beer to the Rescue Kick-Off @ Rip Current Brewing Co. – North Park
Tuesday 5/2
Charity Tuesday @ Societe Brewing Co.
Wednesday 5/3
Dank Drank Charity Beer Fundraiser @ Pariah Brewing Co.
Thursday 5/4
Coffee IPA Fundraiser @ Duck Foot Brewing Co.
Beer to the Rescue Night @ Thorn St. Brewery
Friday 5/5
– Cinco de Drinko Fundraiser @ Booze Brothers Brewing Co.
Saturday 5/6
– A Sweet & Sour Fundraiser @ Indian Joe Brewing
Sunday 5/7
– Beer to the Rescue Day @ Pure Project Brewing
Monday 5/8
– Beer to the Rescue Rafflemania @ All Barrel Harbor Brewing Co. Locations
Tuesday 5/9
Charity Tuesday @ Societe Brewing Co.
Wednesday 5/10
Mason Ale Works Charity IPA Fundraiser @ All Urge Gastropub Locations
Brett Coast IPA Fundraiser @ Green Flash Brewing Co. – Cellar 3
Thursday 5/11
– Beer to the Rescue Night @ North Park Beer Co.
Friday 5/12
– Specialty Beer Fundraiser @ Mission Brewery
– Hoppy Saison Fundraiser @ Kilowatt Brewing Co.
Saturday 5/13
– Dank & Sticky XPA Fundraiser @ Second Chance Beer Co.
– Prodigy Brewing Co. Collaboration Nelson Lager Fundraiser @ Dos Desperados Brewery
Sunday 5/14
– Hazy Double IPA Fundraiser @ All Amplified Ale Works Locations
Monday 5/15
– Beer to the Rescue Night @ New English Brewing Co.
Tuesday 5/16
– Charity Tuesday @ Societe Brewing Co.
Resident Brewing Co. Beer to the Rescue Night @ The Local Eatery Downtown
Wednesday 5/17
– Blood Orange Double IPA Fundraiser @ Division 23 Brewing Co.
– Beer to the Rescue Night @ 32 North Brewing Co.
Thursday 5/18
Nickel Beer Co. Hops to the Rescue Double IPA Fundraiser @ O’Brien’s Pub
Friday 5/19
– South African Nelson IPA Fundraiser @ Bay City Brewing Co.
Saturday 5/20
Prodigy Brewing Co. Collaboration Nelson Lager Fundraiser @ Dos Desperados Brewery
– Beer to the Rescue Day @ Bolt Brewery La Mesa
Sunday 5/21
– Blonde Session IPA Fundraiser @ 2kids Brewing Co.
Monday 5/22
– Beer to the Rescue Cask Night @ Benchmark Brewing Co.
Tuesday 5/23
– Charity Tuesday @ Societe Brewing Co.
Wednesday 5/24
– Beer to the Rescue Week Kick-Off @ White Labs
Thursday 5/25
– Charity IPA Fundraiser @ Belching Beaver Brewery – Oceanside
Friday 5/26
– Corn-Hole & Foosball Tournament @ Iron Fist Brewing Co. – Vista
– Belgian Coffee Ale Fundraiser @ Burning Beard Brewing
Saturday 5/27
– Bottle Beer Release @ Toolbox Brewing Co.
– Beer to the Rescue Day @ Fallbrook Brewing Co.
Sunday 5/28
– Oat Imperial Pale Lager Fundraiser @ ChuckAlek Biergarten
Monday 5/29
– Trending Travis-ty Hazy Session IPA Fundraiser @ Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station
Tuesday 5/30
– Charity Tuesday @ Societe Brewing Co.
Wednesday 5/31
– Beer to the Rescue Closing Ceremonies @ Rip Current Brewing Co. – San Marcos
Thursday 6/1
– Nickel Beer Co. Hops to the Rescue Double IPA Fundraiser @ West Coast BBQ & Brews

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San Diego International Beer Festival winners

May 2

Winners of the San Diego International Beer Festival’s professional brewing competition were released today. A component of the San Diego County Fair’s annual festivities, the competition included entries from across the globe judged by professional beer judges and Southern California brewing professionals in late-April. A total of 68 medals were awarded to San Diego-based breweries. Of that number, 23 were gold, 21 were silver and 24 were bronze.

San Diego breweries won all three medals in eight categories: American-style Red/Amber Ale, Bitter, Bold Stout, Brett and Other Sour Beer, German-style Ale, German-style Weiss, Imperial Stout and Pilsener. Miramar-based AleSmith Brewing Company once again took home Champion Brewery honors behind three medals—a gold and silver in the same category (one of which was awarded to a Scotch ale) and a gold in the Barley Wine category.

The most local medals went to Pizza Port. That brewpub’s Carlsbad brewpub also won a gold and two silvers. Its Ocean Beach arm won two (one gold, one bronze) and Bressi Ranch production brewery earned a silver. The most medals awarded to a single brewery went to San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company and less-than-a-year-old North Park interest Eppig Brewing. Both of those companies earned a gold, silver and two bronzes. San Marcos’ The Lost Abbey and South Park Brewing Company earned three medals apiece, as well. Also impressive was Rip Current winning two of three medals in the German-style Bock category.

The following is a complete list of the winners from this years SDIBF…

Gold Medals

  • AleSmith Brewing Old Numbskull, Barley Wine
  • AleSmith Brewing Private Stock Ale, British-style Strong Ale
  • Bagby Beer Sweet Ride, Pilsener
  • Bagby Beer Three Beagles Brown, English-style Brown Ale
  • Barrel Harbor Brewing Rungnir, Belgian-style Dark Ale
  • Belching Beaver Brewery (Oceanside) Here Comes Mango! IPA, Fruit Beer
  • Burgeon Beer Taking the Biscuit, Bitter
  • Council Brewing Magic Factory Lickable Staves, Brett and Other Sour Beer
  • Dos Desperados Brewery Blonde Kolsch, German-style Ale
  • Duck Foot Brewing Black Leprechaun, Specialty Stout
  • Duck Foot Brewing London Calling, Porter
  • Eppig Brewing Kottbusser, American Wheat Ale
  • Finest Made Ales Imperial Red Ale, Imperial Red Ale
  • Karl Strauss Brewing Mosaic Session IPA, Session Beer
  • Mason Ale Works Charley Hustle, American-style Amber/Red Ale
  • Mike Hess Brewing Umbix, Imperial Stout
  • Mother Earth Brew Co. Renown Brown, American-style Brown Ale
  • North Park Beer Covington Cream Ale, Golden or Blonde Beer
  • Pizza Port (Carlsbad) Z Man, Bold Stout
  • Pizza Port (Ocean Beach) Junk In Da Trunkel Dunkel, German-style Weiss
  • Prohibition Brewing Hop Chronicles, American-style Strong Pale Ale
  • Resident Brewing Golden Kiss, French- and Belgian-style Ale
  • Rip Current Brewing Java Storm Coffee Imperial Stout, Coffee Porter and Stout

Silver Medals

  • AleSmith Brewing Wee Heavy, British-style Strong Ale
  • 2kids Brewing Incredulous Ordinary Bitter, Bitter
  • Breakwater Brewing Rye Dawn, Rye Beer
  • Burning Beard Get Thee to a Nunnery, Belgian-style Pale Ale
  • Coronado Brewing Coastwise, Session Beer
  • Eppig Brewing Glitz and Glam, Fruit Beer
  • Intergalactic Brewing Shut Up Wesley Wheat, American Wheat Ale
  • Karl Strauss Brewing Windansea Wheat, German-style Weiss
  • The Lost Abbey Serpent’s Stout, Imperial Stout
  • The Lost Abbey Veritas 018, Brett and Other Sour Beer
  • Mason Ale Works Gunnar Noir, American-style India Black Ale
  • Mikkeller San Diego Forste Fodselsdag, Specialty Beer
  • Pizza Port (Bressi Ranch) Sharkbite Red Ale, American-style Amber/Red Ale
  • Pizza Port (Carlsbad) Kickflip Kolsch, German-style Ale
  • Pizza Port (Carlsbad) Today Was a Good Day, Australian/International-style Pale Ale
  • Pure Project Brewing Sensei, Pilsener
  • Rip Current Brewing Breakline Bock, German-style Bock
  • San Diego Brewing Biere Welter Wit, Belgian-style Wit or White Ale
  • Second Chance Beer Mulligan Irish Red, Irish-style Red Ale
  • South Park Brewing Grassmarket, Scottish-style Ale
  • Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Cimmerian Portal, Bold Stout

Bronze Medals

  • Abnormal Beer Tummy Cuddles, Chocolate and Chili Beer
  • Amplified Ale Works Barrel-Aged Nyctophobia, Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Stout
  • Ballast Point Brewing Piper Down, Irish-style Red Ale
  • Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill Thizz Is What It Is, Imperial India Pale Ale
  • Burning Beard Brewing Circle of Hops, American-style Pale Ale
  • Coronado Brewing Seacoast Pilsner, American-style Lager
  • Council Brewing Magic Factory Broken Wand with Raspberries, Brett and Other Sour Beer
  • Culver Beer Tiger Ride, Belgian-style Pale Ale
  • Eppig Brewery Natural Bridge Baltic Porter, Porter
  • Eppig Brewing Sinister Path, Bold Stout
  • Fall Brewing Plenty for All, Pilsener
  • Indian Joe Brewing Pineapple Passionfruit Gose, German-style Weiss
  • The Lost Abbey Carnevale Ale, French- and Belgian-style Ale
  • Mike Hess Brewing Deceptio, American-style India Black Ale
  • New English Brewing Barleywine, Barley Wine
  • Nickel Beer Devil’s Copper, Rye Beer
  • Novo Brazil Brewing Mulata, American-style Amber/Red Ale
  • Pizza Port (Ocean Beach) Eyelashes, Belgian-style Pale Strong Ale
  • Rip Current Brewing Delaminator Doppelbock, German-style Bock
  • Rip Current Brewing Rescue Buoy Russian Imperial Stout, Imperial Stout
  • Societe Brewing The Harlot, Hybrid Belgian-style Ale
  • South Park Brewing 2 Griffs, Bitter
  • South Park Brewing Here N Gone, German-style Ale
  • Stone Brewing Delicious IPA, American-style India Pale Ale

The three-day public beer-fest portion of the SDIBF will take place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18. Tickets and information can be found online.

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